Criminal charges mooted for owners of sunk HMS Bounty

HMS Bounty in her death throes
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There have been investigation after investigation, and report after report, but now the U.S. Coast Guard investigation report has now been released, 19 months after the HMS Bounty sank during Hurricane Sandy. Prosecutors are considering criminal charges against the management company responsible for The Bounty, CNN reports.

According to the report, if management and the captain of the sunken tall ship HMS Bounty had 'exercised the proper responsibility, judgment and prudence,' the deaths of two crew would have been prevented.

Before she sank about 100 miles off Cape Hatteras, the Bounty, a recreation of the original Bounty of 'Mutiny on the Bounty' fame, was arguably the most famous three-masted wooden square rigger in the world.

The Coast Guard issued a wide range of recommendations in the disaster that killed crewmember Claudene Christian (a descendant of original chief mutineer Fletcher Christian) and left Capt. Robin Walbridge missing and presumed dead. Fourteen crew members survived.

The decision to abandon ship so late after hurricane conditions worsened and the 'fact that the crew had not drilled (with safety procedures) in months' led the Coast Guard to determine that the captain's 'actions/and or inactions in this regard constitutes negligence.'

The ships' owner, HMS Bounty Organization LLC, according to the report, 'committed acts of negligence' that contributed to Christian's death and the presumed death of Walbridge. Robert Hansen, head of the Bounty Organization, declined to testify at the Coast Guard hearings, evoking Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

The Bounty operated as a recreational vessel under 'less stringent safety standards.' The report recommended that the Coast Guard 'examine if legislative, regulatory or policy changes are needed.'

The ship was built for the 1962 film 'Mutiny on the Bounty.' The aging vessel had maintenance issues that would be expected of a half-century old, 180-foot-long wooden ship.

The National Transportation Safety Board had already reported that the Bounty tragedy was largely caused by Walbridge's 'reckless decision to sail ... into the well-forecast path of Hurricane Sandy.'

HMS Bounty
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